Policy Alert, a Civil Society Organisation that promotes fiscal and ecological justice in the Niger Delta, has identified red flags in the public finance management approach of the five month-old administration of Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State.
In a statement signed by its Programme Officer, Fiscal Reforms and Anti-Corruption, Faith Paulinus, the organisation noted that “it is worrisome that the State Government has not only neglected key sectors but has continued the trend of obtaining loans illegally.”
The statement, made public after Policy Alert’s review of the Akwa Ibom State Third Quarter Budget Performance Report 2023 (July -September), found it disturbing that while the Health sector and the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector had zero capital releases during the period under review, the Office of the Governor, Ministry of Finance, and the Office of the Accountant General which do not have capital development functions directly impacting citizens together accounted for N6.32bn in capital expenditure in the same period.
“It is also disturbing that within the three months period, the administration spent N47.71bn on recurrent items, more than 30 percent higher than the N36.64bn it spent on capital projects, contrary to recent public commitments by the governor to cut cost of governance and reduce recurrent expenditure. High cost of governance has continued to be a bane to the development of the state and needs to be urgently addressed” the organisation stated.
While noting that N751m was disbursed on capital projects in the Educational sector, the statement called on the state government to come clean on the specific projects that gulped this amount, noting that within the period, the only capital project in education known to have been executed by the administration was the renovation of CKS primary school, Barracks Road, Uyo.
Policy Alert pointed out that the administration has continued in the pattern of the immediate past administration to take a loan of N1.2bn through the so-called direct credit substitute/discounting facility, which is illegal and dangerous for the fiscal health of the state.
” The administration of Governor Umo Eno has to immediately curb its inherited appetite for loans in anticipation of funds that are due to the state in the future. Future funds must be left for the future.
“It is even more disturbing that the authorisation to obtain these loans are never discussed on the floor of the House of Assembly in breach of the Fiscal Responsibility Law of the State.”
Policy Alert called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to step up to the plate in its oversight function and hold the executive accountable on the management of the state’s finances.